by Kasey Tross
On this Memorial Day I would like to pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives for this beautiful country of ours.
I am very proud to have had a grandfather who served in the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of Colonel before he retired.
Colonel Robert Otis Quackenbush was born May 10th, 1915. I remember him as the grandpa who used to “count my ribs” (his excuse for tickling me) and tell my grandmother not to give me any mashed potatoes because I didn’t like them (they were my favorite food).
My grandparents’ wedding day, 1942.
My grandparents lived in Pennsylvania, near the New York border. They had a house on a hill, with rolling land around it. There was a pond where my grandpa taught us how to fish, and a cherry tree where we would pick cherries. At the bottom of the hill was a road, and just beyond the road a river. Just past the river were the railroad tracks, which were one of my favorite parts of visiting their home as a child. I loved to hear the sound of the trains going by and watch them through the huge picture windows in my grandparents’ living room.
They had all sorts of exotic things in their house that they had brought back from Japan, where they lived for many years during the U.S. occupation. My father was their only child, and my brother and sister and I were their only grandchildren, so we were spoiled completely rotten.
My grandpa passed away when I was 6, and I will never forget the creaking of the wheels on the caisson and the clopping of the horses hooves being the only sounds as the funeral procession made its way through Arlington Cemetery that September day. I remember the little black and white plaid skirt I wore, with a matching purse that made me feel so grown-up. I remember the gunshot salute that made me jump and cover my ears. I remember the white-gloved soldiers rhythmically removing the flag from the casket, folding it so carefully, and solemnly presenting it to my grandmother, who looked as elegant as ever dressed in black.
At the time I was too young to really recognize the significance of what was happening, too young to notice the empty space next to my grandfather’s grave, too young to even think of the day that my grandmother’s headstone would be there next to his.
Now I look back and I have realized how blessed I was to have known my grandfather who had served in Korea and WWII. I am so glad for my grandmother, that the smiles she and her young groom wore on their wedding day were smiles that they would share for many more decades to come, because there were so many other brides who were not as fortunate.
I got these beautiful photographs from an album my dad put together for me, and so many of the photos in the album did not include my grandfather, but had captions that said things like “photo taken to send to Robert Otis Quackenbush, Sr. while he was serving abroad, exact location unknown.” What faith and devotion it requires of not only those who serve, but those good women and other family members who support those who serve. May we never forget all that has been given, all that is being given, and all that is yet to be given by these brave men and women.
May you have a blessed Memorial Day.